FHP putting end to raves along Skyway Bridge

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Once the sun has dipped below the horizon and night falls on Tampa Bay, rest areas along the Pinellas County side of the Sunshine Skyway Bridge transform.

For years, people with fishing poles and cameras give way to DJs and glow sticks during rave-style parties that sometimes last all night.

“DJs just come out and they set up for free,” said Tom Evans, one of the DJ’s for the parties. “Tens of thousands of dollars of equipment they bring out and just have a good time.”

But Florida Highway Patrol is putting an end to the parties. Starting December 3, gates will block entry to the rest stops, from sunset to sunrise.

Evans says the community is upset about it.

“We’re all sad. I’ve been with the events for the last two or three years and a lot of people who help put these together are kind of upset,” Evans said.

It’s not just Florida Highway Patrol that wants to put an end to this. Kiteboarders like Nancy Mannelli show up around 7 a.m. when sometimes the parties are still going on.

“When I arrive, there’s often music that’s really loud, blasting from inside the mangroves or on the beach, and I have been personally involved in beach clean-ups and picked up a lot of garbage,” Mannelli said.

Evans says the party crowd is not to blame.

“We go around with trash bags, we take all of the trash with us and put it away,” he said. “They only have a couple of trash cans out here, so we can leave it right by them, but that’s about it.”

It’s not the first time law enforcement is closing off causeways and stops near bridges.

Back in 2016, the Florida Department of Transportation installed gates along the Courtney Campbell Causeway, after late night street racers put drivers at risk.

Here, the case seems to be safety and beach cleanliness.

“It’s too bad that we couldn’t all together, as a group, just chip in and do our part,” Mannelli said.

Florida Highway Patrol says trespassing violations will be strictly enforced.